Raul Clement's Reviews > Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace

Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story by D.T. Max
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's review
Dec 16, 2012

really liked it

This honestly would have been one of the best literary biographies I'd ever read were it not for the last 50 pages or so. Maybe D.T. Max thought that the story of Wallace's suicide was well-documented enough (including by Max himself in his New Yorker piece), but it's tough to justify his rushed and cursory job of Wallace's last years: the events and emotions that led to Wallace's death seem instrumental in understanding his life. After hundreds of meticulously researched, brutally frank pages about Wallace pre-Infinite Jest, the entire second half of the book seems lightweight, and this problem is increasingly pronounced as you near the end. Almost no critical space is given to later books like Oblivion, compared to the extensive treatment of earlier books, and the details Max does give about Wallace's life become increasingly sketchy. I learned little I didn't already know, while the first half of the book was filled with surprising facts. Was this a failure of effort, a failure of materials? Who knows, but it does seem like a fairly large flaw.

Additionally, I don't find Max to be a particularly good reader of Wallace's work. He is far too critical of the charms of Wallace's early work. Though he is more accurate about Infinite Jest, what he does get right seems to be thanks to the more astute readers out there: Stephen Burn, Marshall Boswell, Michael Silverblatt, etc.

All that said though, the style in this book is perfect: engaging, transparent, and journalistically neutral. That, plus all the unearthed facts about Wallace's early life, make it worth reading if you are the fan of his writing I am. Warning: you might not like what you learn. But what life can stand up to such intense scrutiny?

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